Healthy Eating for College Freshmen

Your weight might change dramatically when you're away from your parents. Mine changed for the worse—and not because I overloaded on pizza and French fries. Instead, I overestimated the number of calories in the healthy foods I picked and underestimated the calories burned walking to each class. I lost about 14 pounds and saw my ribs sticking out before I realized I needed to eat more! At the same time, I knew someone who ate pizza two or three times a day. Having seen both extremes of eating habit change in college, I'll examine both to help you eat well in college.

Taking in Too Many Calories

The all-you-can-eat-buffet-style dining of most college cafeterias can be a recipe for overeating. Without your parents there to stop you from eating more dessert or pizza than you should, overindulging is easy. The cost of living in the dorms might tempt you to "eat your money's worth." The stress of adjusting to college might boost your appetite.

These are all causes of weight gain. Let's look at how to keep them from getting the better of you.

You're at college to learn, so learn the basics of nutrition. Consume high-fat and high-sugar dishes in moderation, and shoot for five servings of vegetables per day. Try vegetables you think you don't like in a new way by putting cheese or low-calorie salad dressing on top of them. Colleges probably have nutritional information available for each day's menu, so use that to select healthy dishes.

You probably have access to a good gym or intramural athletics programs—get your money's worth out of them instead of out of the food. As a bonus benefit, exercise might decrease your stress, eliminating one cause of overeating.

Taking in Too Few Calories

As busy as college can be, it might be hard to find time to sit and eat a meal. You might be getting more exercise than you used to, going up and down flights of stairs to get to your room or walking across campus to your classes. You probably won't like the dorm food as much as the home-cooked meals you're used to. The stress of adjusting to college might decrease your appetite.

These are all causes of unhealthy weight loss. Let's look at how to keep them from getting the better of you.

If you lack the time to eat, you're overbooked. Reprioritize so that you have more time. Stop going to club meetings if necessary.

Treat yourself now and then with dessert, French fries, or whatever your favorite food is. Vary your foods so that you're not hitting the salad bar every day (like I was). Blast stress by listening to music, meditating, calling a friend or relative, or whatever works for you so that you have an appetite.


You can avoid the "Freshman 15," whether that's a 15-pound gain or loss. College is a time to learn and try new things, so learn about how to stay healthy. That's a skill you'll use for the rest of your life.


Photo: nixxphotography,

Darla Word

About Darla Word

I'm a writing tutor and editor from Michigan. My favorite subject to write about is writing because making better writers is my calling. I also enjoy reading, singing, swimming, and cardmaking.

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